Ay, sir — our ancient crown, in these wild times,
Oft stood upon a cast — the gamester’s ducat,
So often staked, and lost, and then regain’d,
Scarce knew so many hazards.
The Spanish Father.
It is not our object to enter into the historical part of the reign of the ill-fated Mary, or to recount how, during the week which succeeded her flight from Lochleven, her partisans mustered around her with their followers, forming a gallant army, amounting to six thousand men. So much light has been lately thrown on the most minute details of the period, by Mr. Chalmers, in his valuable history of Queen Mary, that the reader may be safely referred to it for the fullest information which ancient records afford concerning that interesting time. It is sufficient for our purpose to say, that while Mary’s head-quarters were at Hamilton, the Regent and his adherents had, in the King’s name, assembled a host at Glasgow, inferior indeed to that of the Queen in numbers, but formidable from the military talents of Murray, Morton, the Laird of Grange, and others, who had been trained from their youth in foreign and domestic wars.
In these circumstances, it was the obvious policy of Queen Mary to avoid a conflict, secure that were her person once in safety, the number of her adherents must daily increase; whereas, the forces of those opposed to her must, as had frequently happened in the previous history of her reign, have diminished, and their spirits become broken. And so evident was this to her counsellors, that they resolved their first step should be to place the Queen in the strong castle of Dunbarton, there to await the course of events, the arrival of succours from France, and the levies which were made by her adherents in every province of Scotland. Accordingly, orders were given, that all men should be on horseback or on foot, apparelled in their armour, and ready to follow the Queen’s standard in array of battle, the avowed determination being to escort her to the Castle of Dunbarton in defiance of her enemies.
The muster was made upon Hamilton-Moor, and the march commenced in all the pomp of feudal times. Military music sounded, banners and pennons waved, armour glittered far and wide, and spears glanced and twinkled like stars in a frosty sky. The gallant spectacle of warlike parade was on this occasion dignified by the presence of the Queen herself, who, with a fair retinue of ladies and household attendants, and a special guard of gentlemen, amongst whom young Seyton and Roland were distinguished, gave grace at once and confidence to the army, which spread its ample files before, around, and behind her. Many churchmen also joined the cavalcade, most of whom did not scruple to assume arms, and declare their intention of wielding them in defence of Mary and the Catholic faith. Not so the Abbot of Saint Mary’s. Roland had not seen this prelate since the night of their escape from Lochleven, and he now beheld him, robed in the dress of his order, assume his station near the Queen’s person. Roland hastened to pull off his basnet, and beseech the Abbot’s blessing.
“Thou hast it, my son!” said the priest; “I see thee now under thy true name, and in thy rightful garb. The helmet with the holly branch befits your brows well — I have long waited for the hour thou shouldst assume it.”
“Then you knew of my descent, my good father?” said Roland.
“I did so, but it was under seal of confession from thy grandmother; nor was I at liberty to tell the secret, till she herself should make it known.”
“Her reason for such secrecy, my father?” said Roland Avenel.
“Fear, perchance of my brother — a mistaken fear, for Halbert would not, to ensure himself a kingdom, have offered wrong to an orphan; besides that, your title, in quiet times, even had your father done your mother that justice which I well hope he did, could not have competed with that of my brother’s wife, the child of Julian’s elder brother.”
“They need fear no competition from me,” said Avenel. “Scotland is wide enough, and there are many manors to win, without plundering my benefactor. But prove to me, my reverend father, that my father was just to my mother — show me that I may call myself a legitimate Avenel, and make me your bounden slave for ever.”
“Ay,” replied the Abbot, “I hear the Seytons hold thee cheap for that stain on thy shield. Something, however, I have learnt from the late Abbot Boniface, which, if it prove sooth, may redeem that reproach.”
“Tell me that blessed news,” said Roland, “and the future service of my life —”
“Rash boy!” said the Abbot, “I should but madden thine impatient temper, by exciting hopes that may never be fulfilled — and is this a time for them? Think on what perilous march we are bound, and if thou hast a sin unconfessed, neglect not the only leisure which Heaven may perchance afford thee for confession and absolution.”
“There will be time enough for both, I trust, when we reach Dunbarton,” answered the page.
“Ay,” said the Abbot, “thou crowest as loudly as the rest — but we are not yet at Dunbarton, and there is a lion in the path.”
“Mean you Murray, Morton, and the other rebels at Glasgow, my reverend father? Tush! they dare not look on the royal banner.”
“Even so,” replied the Abbot, “speak many of those who are older, and should be wiser, than thou. — I have returned from the southern shires, where I left many a chief of name arming in the Queen’s interest — I left the lords here wise and considerate men — I find them madmen on my return — they are willing, for mere pride and vain-glory, to brave the enemy, and to carry the Queen, as it were in triumph, past the walls of Glasgow, and under the beards of the adverse army. — Seldom does Heaven smile on such mistimed confidence. We shall be encountered, and that to the purpose.”
“And so much the better,” replied Roland; “the field of battle was my cradle.”
“Beware it be not thy dying bed,” said the Abbot. “But what avails it whispering to young wolves the dangers of the chase? You will know, perchance, ere this day is out, what yonder men are, whom you hold in rash contempt.”
“Why, what are they?” said Henry Seyton, who now joined them: “have they sinews of wire, and flesh of iron? — Will lead pierce and steel cut them? — If so, reverend father, we have little to fear.”
“They are evil men,” said the Abbot, “but the trade of war demands no saints. — Murray and Morton are known to be the best generals in Scotland. No one ever saw Lindesay’s or Ruthven’s back — Kirkaldy of Grange was named by the Constable Montmorency the first soldier in Europe — My brother, too good a name for such a cause, has been far and wide known for a soldier.”
“The better, the better!” said Seyton, triumphantly; “we shall have all these traitors of rank and name in a fair field before us. Our cause is the best, our numbers are the strongest, our hearts and limbs match theirs — Saint Bennet, and set on!”
The Abbot made no reply, but seemed lost in reflection; and his anxiety in some measure communicated itself to Roland Avenel, who ever, as their line of march led over a ridge or an eminence, cast an anxious look towards the towers of Glasgow, as if he expected to see symptoms of the enemy issuing forth. It was not that he feared the fight, but the issue was of such deep import to his country, and to himself, that the natural fire of his spirit burned with a less lively, though with a more intense glow. Love, honour, fame, fortune, all seemed to depend on the issue of one field, rashly hazarded perhaps, but now likely to become unavoidable and decisive.
When, at length, their march came to be nearly parallel with the city of Glasgow, Roland became sensible that the high grounds before them were already in part occupied by a force, showing, like their own, the royal banner of Scotland, and on the point of being supported by columns of infantry and squadrons of horse, which the city gates had poured forth, and which hastily advanced to sustain those troops who already possessed the ground in front of the Queen’s forces. Horseman after horseman galloped in from the advanced guard, with tidings that Murray had taken the field with his whole army; that his object was to intercept the Queen’s march, and his purpose unquestionable to hazard a battle. It was now that the tempers of men were subjected to a sudden and a severe trial; and that those who had too presumptuously concluded that they would pass without combat, were something disconcerted, when, at once, and with little time to deliberate, they found themselves placed in front of a resolute enemy. — Their chiefs immediately assembled around the Queen, and held a hasty council of war. Mary’s quivering lip confessed the fear which she endeavoured to conceal under a bold and dignified demeanour. But her efforts were overcome by painful recollections of the disastrous issue of her last appearance in arms at Carberry-hill; and when she meant to have asked them their advice for ordering the battle, she involuntarily inquired whether there were no means of escaping without an engagement?
“Escaping?” answered the Lord Seyton; “when I stand as one to ten of your Highness’s enemies, I may think of escape — but never while I stand with three to two!”
“Battle! battle!” exclaimed the assembled lords; “we will drive the rebels from their vantage ground, as the hound turns the hare on the hill side.”
“Methinks, my noble lords,” said the Abbot, “it were as well to prevent his gaining that advantage. — Our road lies through yonder hamlet on the brow, and whichever party hath the luck to possess it, with its little gardens and enclosures, will attain a post of great defence.”
“The reverend father is right,” said the Queen. “Oh, haste thee, Seyton, haste, and get thither before them — they are marching like the wind.”
Seyton bowed low, and turned his horse’s head. —“Your Highness honours me,” he said; “I will instantly press forward, and seize the pass.”
“Not before me, my lord, whose charge is the command of the vanguard,” said the Lord of Arbroath.
“Before you, or any Hamilton in Scotland,” said the Seyton, “having the Queen’s command — Follow me, gentlemen, my vassals and kinsmen — Saint Bennet, and set on!”
“And follow me,” said Arbroath, “my noble kinsmen, and brave men-tenants, we will see which will first reach the post of danger. For God and Queen Mary!”
“Ill-omened haste, and most unhappy strife,” said the Abbot, who saw them and their followers rush hastily and emulously to ascend the height without waiting till their men were placed in order. —“And you, gentlemen,” he continued, addressing Roland and Seyton, who were each about to follow those who hastened thus disorderly to the conflict, “will you leave the Queen’s person unguarded?”
“Oh, leave me not, gentlemen!” said the Queen —“Roland and Seyton, do not leave me — there are enough of arms to strike in this fell combat — withdraw not those to whom I trust for my safety.”
“We may not leave her Grace,” said Roland, looking at Seyton, and turning his horse.
“I ever looked when thou wouldst find out that,” rejoined the fiery youth.
Roland made no answer, but bit his lip till the blood came, and spurring his horse up to the side of Catherine Seyton’s palfrey, he whispered in a low voice, “I never thought to have done aught to deserve you; but this day I have heard myself upbraided with cowardice, and my sword remained still sheathed, and all for the love of you.”
“There is madness among us all,” said the damsel; “my father, my brother, and you, are all alike bereft of reason. Ye should think only of this poor Queen, and you are all inspired by your own absurd jealousies — The monk is the only soldier and man of sense amongst you all. — My lord Abbot,” she cried aloud, “were it not better we should draw to the westward, and wait the event that God shall send us, instead of remaining here in the highway, endangering the Queen’s person, and cumbering the troops in their advance?”
“You say well, my daughter,” replied the Abbot; “had we but one to guide us where the Queen’s person may be in safety — Our nobles hurry to the conflict, without casting a thought on the very cause of the war.”
“Follow me,” said a knight, or man-at-arms, well mounted, and attired completely in black armour, but having the visor of his helmet closed, and bearing no crest on his helmet, or device upon his shield.
“We will follow no stranger,” said the Abbot, “without some warrant of his truth.”
“I am a stranger and in your hands,” said the horseman; “if you wish to know more of me, the Queen herself will be your warrant.”
The Queen had remained fixed to the spot, as if disabled by fear, yet mechanically smiling, bowing, and waving her hand, as banners were lowered and spears depressed before her, while, emulating the strife betwixt Seyton and Arbroath, band on band pressed forward their march towards the enemy. Scarce, however, had the black rider whispered something in her ear, than she assented to what he said; and when he spoke aloud, and with an air of command, “Gentlemen, it is the Queen’s pleasure that you should follow me,” Mary uttered, with something like eagerness, the word “Yes.”
All were in motion in an instant; for the black horseman, throwing off a sort of apathy of manner, which his first appearance indicated, spurred his horse to and fro, making him take such active bounds and short turns, as showed the rider master of the animal; and getting the Queen’s little retinue in some order for marching, he led them to the left, directing his course towards a castle, which, crowning a gentle yet commanding eminence, presented an extensive view over the country beneath, and in particular, commanded a view of those heights which both armies hastened to occupy, and which it was now apparent must almost instantly be the scene of struggle and dispute.
“Yonder towers,” said the Abbot, questioning the sable horseman, “to whom do they belong? — and are they in the hands of friends?”
“They are untenanted,” replied the stranger, “or, at least, they have no hostile inmates. — But urge these youths. Sir Abbot, to make more haste — this is but an evil time to satisfy their idle curiosity, by peering out upon the battle in which they are to take no share.”
“The worse luck mine,” said Henry Seyton, who overheard him —“I would rather be under my father’s banner at this moment than be made Chamberlain of Holyrood, for this my present duty of peaceful ward well and patiently discharged.”
“Your place under your father’s banner will shortly be right dangerous,” said Roland Avenel, who, pressing his horse towards the westward, had still his look reverted to the armies; “for I see yonder body of cavalry, which presses from the eastward, will reach the village ere Lord Seyton can gain it.”
“They are but cavalry,” said Seyton, looking attentively; “they cannot hold the village without shot of harquebuss.”
“Look more closely,” said Roland; “you will see that each of these horseman who advance so rapidly from Glasgow, carries a footman behind him.”
“Now, by Heaven, he speaks well!” said the black cavalier; “one of you two must go carry the news to Lord Seyton and Lord Arbroath, that they hasten not their horsemen on before the foot, but advance more regularly.”
“Be that my errand,” said Roland, “for I first marked the stratagem of the enemy.”
“But, by your leave,” said Seyton, “yonder is my father’s banner engaged, and it best becomes me to go to the rescue.”
“I will stand by the Queen’s decision,” said Roland Avenel.
“What new appeal? — what new quarrel?” said Queen Mary —“Are there not in yonder dark host enemies enough to Mary Stewart, but must her very friends turn enemies to each other?”
“Nay, madam,” said Roland, “the young master of Seyton and I did but dispute who should leave your person to do a most needful message to the host. He thought his rank entitled him, and I deemed that the person of least consequence, being myself, were better perilled —”
“Not so,” said the Queen; “if one must leave me, be it Seyton.”
Henry Seyton bowed till the white plumes on his helmet mixed with the flowing mane of his gallant war-horse, then placed himself firm in the saddle, shook his lance aloft with an air of triumph and determination, and striking his horse with the spurs, made towards his father’s banner, which was still advancing up the hill, and dashed his steed over every obstacle that occurred in his headlong path.
“My brother! my father!” exclaimed Catherine, with an expression of agonized apprehension —“they are in the midst of peril, and I in safety!”
“Would to God,” said Roland, “that I were with them, and could ransom every drop of their blood by two of mine!”
“Do I not know thou dost wish it?” said Catherine —“Can a woman say to a man what I have well-nigh said to thee, and yet think that he could harbour fear or faintness of heart? — There is that in yon distant sound of approaching battle that pleases me even while it affrights me. I would I were a man, that I might feel that stern delight, without the mixture of terror!”
“Ride up, ride up, Lady Catherine Seyton,” cried the Abbot, as they still swept on at a rapid pace, and were now close beneath the walls of the castle —“ride up, and aid Lady Fleming to support the Queen — she gives way more and more.”
They halted and lifted Mary from the saddle, and were about to support her towards the castle, when she said faintly, “Not there — not there — these walls will I never enter more!”
“Be a Queen, madam,” said the Abbot, “and forget that you are a woman.”
“Oh, I must forget much, much more,” answered the unfortunate Mary, in an under tone, “ere I can look with steady eyes on these well-known scenes! — I must forget the days which I spent here as the bride of the lost — the murdered ——”
“This is the Castle of Crookstone,” said the Lady Fleming, “in which the Queen held her first court after she was married to Darnley.”
“Heaven,” said the Abbot, “thy hand is upon us! — Bear yet up, madam — your foes are the foes of Holy Church, and God will this day decide whether Scotland shall be Catholic or heretic.”
A heavy and continued fire of cannon and musketry, bore a tremendous burden to his words, and seemed far more than they to recall the spirits of the Queen.
“To yonder tree,” she said, pointing to a yew-tree which grew on a small mount close to the castle; “I know it well — from thence you may see a prospect wide as from the peaks of Schehallion.”
And freeing herself from her assistants, she walked with a determined, yet somewhat wild step, up to the stem of the noble yew. The Abbot, Catherine, and Roland Avenel followed her, while Lady Fleming kept back the inferior persons of her train. The black horseman also followed the Queen, waiting on her as closely as the shadow upon the light, but ever remaining at the distance of two or three yards —— he folded his arms on his bosom, turned his back to the battle, and seemed solely occupied by gazing on Mary, through the bars of his closed visor. The Queen regarded him not, but fixed her eyes upon the spreading yew.”
“Ay, fair and stately tree,” she said, as if at the sight of it she had been rapt away from the present scene, and had overcome the horror which had oppressed her at the first approach to Crookstone, “there thou standest, gay and goodly as ever, though thou hearest the sounds of war, instead of the vows of love. All is gone since I last greeted thee — love and lover — vows and vower — king and kingdom. — How goes the field, my Lord Abbot? — with us, I trust — yet what but evil can Mary’s eyes witness from this spot?”
Her attendants eagerly bent their eyes on the field of battle, but could discover nothing more than that it was obstinately contested. The small enclosures and cottage gardens in the village, of which they had a full and commanding view, and which shortly before lay, with their lines of sycamore and ash-trees, so still and quiet in the mild light of a May sun, were now each converted into a line of fire, canopied by smoke; and the sustained and constant report of the musketry and cannon, mingled with the shouts of meeting combatants, showed that as yet neither party had given ground.
“Many a soul finds its final departure to heaven or hell, in these awful thunders,” said the Abbot; “let those that believe in the Holy Church, join me in orisons for victory in this dreadful combat.”
“Not here — not here,” said the unfortunate Queen; “pray not here, father, or pray in silence — my mind is too much torn between the past and the present, to dare to approach the heavenly throne — Or, if we will pray, be it for one whose fondest affections have been her greatest crimes, and who has ceased to be a queen, only because she was a deceived and a tender-hearted woman.”
“Were it not well,” said Roland, “that I rode somewhat nearer the hosts, and saw the fate of the day?”
“Do so, in the name of God,” said the Abbot; “for if our friends are scattered, our flight must be hasty — but beware thou approach not too nigh the conflict; there is more than thine own life depends on thy safe return.”
“Oh, go not too nigh,” said Catherine; “but fail not to see how the Seytons fight, and how they bear themselves.”
“Fear nothing, I will be on my guard,” said Roland Avenel; and without waiting farther answer, rode towards the scene of conflict, keeping, as he rode, the higher and unenclosed ground, and ever looking cautiously around him, for fear of involving himself in some hostile party. As he approached, the shots rung sharp and more sharply on his ear, the shouts came wilder and wilder, and he felt that thick beating of the heart, that mixture of natural apprehension, intense curiosity, and anxiety for the dubious event, which even the bravest experience when they approach alone to a scene of interest and of danger.
At length he drew so close, that from a bank, screened by bushes and underwood, he could distinctly see where the struggle was most keenly maintained. This was in a hollow way, leading to the village, up which the Queen’s vanguard had marched, with more hasty courage than well-advised conduct, for the purpose of possessing themselves of that post of advantage. They found their scheme anticipated, and the hedges and enclosures already occupied by the enemy, led by the celebrated Kirkaldy of Grange and the Earl of Morton; and not small was the loss which they sustained while struggling forward to come to close with the men-at-arms on the other side. But, as the Queen’s followers were chiefly noblemen and barons, with their kinsmen and followers, they had pressed onward, contemning obstacles and danger, and had, when Roland arrived on the ground, met hand to hand at the gorge of the pass with the Regent’s vanguard, and endeavoured to bear them out of the village at the spear-point; while their foes, equally determined to keep the advantage which they had attained, struggled with the like obstinacy to drive back the assailants. Both parties were on foot, and armed in proof; so that, when the long lances of the front ranks were fixed in each other’s shields, corslets, and breastplates, the struggle resembled that of two bulls, who fixing their frontlets hard against each other, remain in that posture for hours, until the superior strength or obstinacy of the one compels the other to take to flight, or bears him down to the earth. Thus locked together in the deadly struggle, which swayed slowly to and fro, as one or other party gained the advantage, those who fell were trampled on alike by friends and foes; those whose weapons were broken, retired from the front rank, and had their place supplied by others; while the rearward ranks, unable otherwise to share in the combat, fired their pistols, and hurled their daggers, and the points and truncheons of the broken weapons, like javelins against the enemy.
“God and the Queen!” resounded from the one party; “God and the King!” thundered from the other; while, in the name of their sovereign, fellow-subjects on both sides shed each other’s blood, and, in the name of their Creator, defaced his image. Amid the tumult was often heard the voices of the captains, shouting their commands; of leaders and chiefs, crying their gathering words; of groans and shrieks from the falling and the dying.
The strife had lasted nearly an hour. The strength of both parties seemed exhausted; but their rage was unabated, and their obstinacy unsubdued, when Roland, who turned eye and ear to all around him, saw a column of infantry, headed by a few horsemen, wheel round the base of the bank where he had stationed himself, and, levelling their long lances, attack the Queen’s vanguard, closely engaged as they were in conflict on their front. The very first glance showed him that the leader who directed this movement was the Knight of Avenel, his ancient master; and the next convinced him, that its effects would be decisive. The result of the attack of fresh and unbroken forces upon the flank of those already wearied with a long and obstinate struggle, was, indeed, instantaneous.
The column of the assailants, which had hitherto shown one dark, dense, and united line of helmets, surmounted with plumage, was at once broken and hurled in confusion down the hill, which they had so long endeavoured to gain. In vain were the leaders heard calling upon their followers to stand to the combat, and seen personally resisting when all resistance was evidently vain. They were slain, or felled to the earth, or hurried backwards by the mingled tide of flight and pursuit. What were Roland’s feelings on beholding the rout, and feeling that all that remained for him was to turn bridle, and endeavour to ensure the safety of the Queen’s person! Yet, keen as his grief and shame might be, they were both forgotten, when, almost close beneath the bank which he occupied, he saw Henry Seyton forced away from his own party in the tumult, covered with dust and blood, and defending himself desperately against several of the enemy who had gathered around him, attracted by his gay armour. Roland paused not a moment, but pushing his steed down the bank, leaped him amongst the hostile party, dealt three or four blows amongst them, which struck down two, and made the rest stand aloof; then reaching Seyton his hand, he exhorted him to seize fast on his horse’s mane.
“We live or die together this day,” said he; “keep but fast hold till we are out of the press, and then my horse is yours.”
Seyton heard and exerted his remaining strength, and, by their joint efforts, Roland brought him out of danger, and behind the spot from whence he had witnessed the disastrous conclusion of the fight. But no sooner were they under shelter of the trees, than Seyton let go his hold, and, in spite of Roland’s efforts to support him, fell at length on the turf. “Trouble yourself no more with me,” he said; “this is my first and my last battle — and I have already seen too much to wish to see the close. Hasten to save the Queen — and commend me to Catherine — she will never more be mistaken for me nor I for her — the last sword-stroke has made an eternal distinction.”
“Let me aid you to mount my horse,” said Roland, eagerly, “and you may yet be saved — I can find my own way on foot — turn but my horse’s head westward, and he will carry you fleet and easy as the wind.”
“I will never mount steed more,” said the youth; “farewell — I love thee better dying, than ever I thought to have done while in life — I would that old man’s blood were not on my hand! — Sancte Benedicte, ora pro me — Stand not to look on a dying man, but haste to save the Queen!”
These words were spoken with the last effort of his voice, and scarce were they uttered ere the speaker was no more. They recalled Roland to a sense of the duty which he had well-nigh forgotten, but they did not reach his ears only.
“The Queen — where is the Queen?” said Halbert Glendinning, who, followed by two or three horsemen, appeared at this instant. Roland made no answer, but, turning his horse, and confiding in his speed, gave him at once rein and spur, and rode over height and hollow towards the Castle of Crookstone. More heavily armed, and mounted upon a horse of less speed, Sir Halbert Glendinning followed with couched lance, calling out as he rode, “Sir, with the holly-branch, halt, and show your right to bear that badge — fly not thus cowardly, nor dishonour the cognizance thou deservest not to wear! — Halt, sir coward, or by Heaven, I will strike thee with my lance on the back, and slay thee like a dastard — I am the Knight of Avenel — I am Halbert Glendinning.”
But Roland, who had no purpose of encountering his old master, and who, besides, knew the Queen’s safety depended on his making the best speed he could, answered not a word to the defiances and reproaches which Sir Halbert continued to throw out against him; but making the best use of his spurs, rode yet harder than before, and had gained about a hundred yards upon his pursuer, when, coming near to the yew-tree where he had left the Queen, he saw them already getting to horse, and cried out as loud as he could, “Foes! foes! — Ride for it, fair ladies — Brave gentlemen, do your devoir to protect them!”
So saying, he wheeled his horse, and avoiding the shock of Sir Halbert Glendinning, charged one of that Knight’s followers, who was nearly on a line with him, so rudely with his lance, that he overthrew horse and man. He then drew his sword and attacked the second, while the black man-at-arms, throwing himself in the way of Glendinning, they rushed on each other so fiercely, that both horses were overthrown, and the riders lay rolling on the plain. Neither was able to arise, for the black horseman was pierced through with Glendinning’s lance, and the Knight of Avenel, oppressed with the weight of his own horse and sorely bruised besides, seemed in little better plight than he whom he had mortally wounded.
“Yield thee, Sir Knight of Avenel, rescue or no rescue,” said Roland, who had put a second antagonist out of condition to combat, and hastened to prevent Glendinning from renewing the conflict.
“I may not choose but yield,” said Sir Halbert, “since I can no longer fight; but it shames me to speak such a word to a coward like thee!”
“Call me not coward,” said Roland, lifting his visor, and helping his prisoner to rise, “since but for old kindness at thy hands, and yet more at thy lady’s, I had met thee as a brave man should.”
“The favourite page of my wife!” said Sir Halbert, astonished; “Ah! wretched boy, I have heard of thy treason at Lochleven.”
“Reproach him not, my brother,” said the Abbot, “he was but an agent in the hands of Heaven.”
“To horse, to horse!” said Catherine Seyton; “mount and begone, or we are all lost. I see our gallant army flying for many a league — To horse, my Lord Abbot — To horse, Roland — my gracious Liege, to horse! Ere this, we should have ridden many a mile.”
“Look on these features,” said Mary, pointing to the dying knight, who had been unhelmed by some compassionate hand; “look there, and tell me if she who ruins all who love her, ought to fly a foot farther to save her wretched life!”
The reader must have long anticipated the discovery which the Queen’s feelings had made before her eyes confirmed it. It was the features of the unhappy George Douglas, on which death was stamping his mark.
“Look — look at him well,” said the Queen, “thus has it been with all who loved Mary Stewart! — The royalty of Francis, the wit of Chastelar, the power and gallantry of the gay Gordon, the melody of Rizzio, the portly form and youthful grace of Darnley, the bold address and courtly manners of Bothwell — and now the deep-devoted passion of the noble Douglas — nought could save them! — they looked on the wretched Mary, and to have loved her was crime enough to deserve early death! No sooner had the victim formed a kind thought of me, than the poisoned cup, the axe and block, the dagger, the mine, were ready to punish them for casting away affection on such a wretch as I am! — Importune me not — I will fly no farther — I can die but once, and I will die here.”
While she spoke, her tears fell fast on the face of the dying man, who continued to fix his eyes on her with an eagerness of passion, which death itself could hardly subdue. —“Mourn not for me,” he said faintly, “but care for your own safety — I die in mine armour as a Douglas should, and I die pitied by Mary Stewart!”
He expired with these words, and without withdrawing his eyes from her face; and the Queen, whose heart was of that soft and gentle mould, which in domestic life, and with a more suitable partner than Darnley, might have made her happy, remained weeping by the dead man, until recalled to herself by the Abbot, who found it necessary to use a style of unusual remonstrance. “We also, madam,” he said, “we, your Grace’s devoted followers, have friends and relatives to weep for. I leave a brother in imminent jeopardy — the husband of the Lady Fleming — the father and brothers of the Lady Catherine, are all in yonder bloody field, slain, it is to be feared, or prisoners. We forget the fate of our nearest and dearest, to wait on our Queen, and she is too much occupied with her own sorrows to give one thought to ours.”
“I deserve not your reproach, father,” said the Queen, checking her tears; “but I am docile to it — where must we go — what must we do?”
“We must fly, and that instantly,” said the Abbot; “whither is not so easily answered, but we may dispute it upon the road — Lift her to her saddle, and set forward.”44
They set off accordingly — Roland lingered a moment to command the attendants of the Knight of Avenel to convey their master to the Castle of Crookstone, and to say that he demanded from him no other condition of liberty, than his word, that he and his followers would keep secret the direction in which the Queen fled. As he turned his rein to depart, the honest countenance of Adam Woodcock stared upon him with an expression of surprise, which, at another time, would have excited his hearty mirth. He had been one of the followers who had experienced the weight of Roland’s arm, and they now knew each other, Roland having put up his visor, and the good yeoman having thrown away his barret-cap, with the iron bars in front, that he might the more readily assist his master. Into this barret-cap, as it lay on the ground, Roland forgot not to drop a few gold pieces, (fruits of the Queen’s liberality,) and with a signal of kind recollection and enduring friendship, he departed at full gallop to overtake the Queen, the dust raised by her train being already far down the hill.
“It is not fairy-money,” said honest Adam, weighing and handling the gold —“And it was Master Roland himself, that is a certain thing — the same open hand, and, by our Lady!” (shrugging his shoulders)—“the same ready fist! — My Lady will hear of this gladly, for she mourns for him as if he were her son. And to see how gay he is! But these light lads are as sure to be uppermost as the froth to be on the top of the quart-pot — Your man of solid parts remains ever a falconer.” So saying, he went to aid his comrades, who had now come up in greater numbers, to carry his master into the Castle of Crookstone.
44 I am informed in the most polite manner, by D. MacVean, Esq. of Glasgow, that I have been incorrect in my locality, in giving an account of the battle of Langside. Crookstone Castle, he observes, lies four miles west from the field of battle, and rather in the rear of Murray’s army. The real place from which Mary saw the rout of her last army, was Cathcart Castle, which, being a mile and a half east from Langside, was, situated in the rear of the Queen’s own army. I was led astray in the present case, by the authority of my deceased friend, James Grahame the excellent and amiable author of the Sabbath, in his drama on the subject of Queen Mary; and by a traditionary report of Mary having seen the battle from the Castle of Crookstone, which seemed so much to increase the interest of the scene, that I have been unwilling to make, in this particular instance, the fiction give way to the fact, which last is undoubtedly in favour of Mr. MacVean’s system.
It is singular how tradition, which is sometimes a sure guide to truth, is, in other cases, prone to mislead us. In the celebrated field of battle at Killiecrankie, the traveller is struck with one of those rugged pillars of rough stone, which indicate the scenes of ancient conflict. A friend of the author, well acquainted with the circumstances of the battle, was standing near this large stone, and looking on the scene around, when a highland shepherd hurried down from the hill to offer his services as cicerone, and proceeded to inform him, that Dundee was slain at that stone, which was raised to his memory. “Fie, Donald.” answered my friend, “how can you tell such a story to a stranger? I am sure you know well enough that Dundee was killed at a considerable distance from this place, near the house of Fascally, and that this stone was here long before the battle, in 1688.”—“Oich! oich!” said Donald, no way abashed, “and your honour’s in the right, and I see you ken a’ about it. And he wasna killed on the spot neither, but lived till the next morning; but a’ the Saxon gentlemen like best to hear he was killed at the great stane.” It is on the same principle of pleasing my readers, that I retain Crookstone Castle instead of Cathcart.
If, however, the author has taken a liberty in removing the actual field of battle somewhat to the eastward, he has been tolerably strict in adhering to the incidents of the engagement, as will appear from it comparison of events in the novel, with the following account from an old writer.
“The Regent was out on foot and all his company, except the Laird of Grange, Alexander Hume of Manderston, and some borderers to the number of two hundred. The Laird of Grange had already viewed the ground, and with all imaginable diligence caused every horseman to take behind him a footman of the Regent’s, to guard behind them, and rode with speed to the head of Langside-hill, and set down the footmen with their culverings at the head of a straight lane, where there were some cottage houses and yards of great advantage. Which soldiers with their continual shot killed divers of the vaunt guard, led by the Hamiltons, who, courageously and fiercely ascending up the hill, were already out of breath, when the Regent’s vaunt guard joined with them. Where the worthy Lord Hume fought on foot with his pike in his hand very manfully, assisted by the Laird of Cessford, his brother-inlaw, who helped him up again when he was strucken to the ground by many strokes upon his face, through the throwing pistols at him after they had been discharged. He was also wounded with staves, and had many strokes of spears through his legs; for he and Grange, at the joining, cried to let their adversaries first lay down their spears, to bear up theirs; which spears were so thick fixed in the others’ jacks, that some of the pistols and great staves that were thrown by them which were behind, might be seen lying upon the spears.
“Upon the Queen’s side the Earl of Argyle commanded the battle, and the Lord of Arbroth the vaunt guard. But the Regent committed to the Laird of Grange the special care, as being an experimented captain, to oversee every danger, and to ride to every wing, to encourage and make help where greatest need was. He perceived, at the first joining, the right wing of the Regent’s vaunt guard put back and like to fly, whereof the greatest part were commons of the barony of Renfrew; whereupon he rode to them, and told them that their enemy was already turning their backs, requesting them to stay and debate till he should bring them fresh men forth of the battle. Whither at full speed he did ride alone, and told the Regent that the enemy were shaken and flying away behind the little village, and desired a few number of fresh men to go with him. Where he found enough willing, as the Lord Lindesay, the Laird of Lochleven, Sir James Balfour, and all the Regent’s servants, who followed him with diligence, and reinforced that wing which was beginning to fly; which fresh men with their loose weapons struck the enemies in their flank and faces, which forced them incontinent to give place and turn back after long fighting and pushing others to and fro with their spears. There were not many horsemen to pursue after them, and the Regent cried to save and not to kill, and Grange was never cruel, so that there were few slain and taken. And the only slaughter was at the first rencounter by the shot of the soldiers, which Grange had planted at the lane head behind some dikes.”
It is remarkable that, while passing through the small town of Renfrew, some partisans, adherents of the House of Lennox, attempting to arrest Queen Mary and her attendants, were obliged to make way for her not without slaughter.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00